Contemplative photography: a book review
The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes, by Andy Karr and Michael Wood. Shambhala Publications, 2011.
This book has changed my life! Contemplative photography is a synthesis of meditation and photography. The aim is to learn to see the world with fresh eyes and then express what you see. The idea is to express things just as they are - genuinely, simply, without artificial contrivance and without interpretation. To achieve this you try not to think while you're actually taking the photo. 'Thinking should be done beforehand or afterwards - never while actually taking a photograph.' (Henri Cartier Bresson)
Instead of thinking, you learn to tune in to an intelligence that is separate from our thinking mind and our emotions. This state of mind is sometimes referred to as 'the zone', or mindfulness. When we take photos in this state of mind, they are fresh, creative and accurately reflect the reality of the world.
And at times it's worked for me. Whenever or wherever I am - day or night, indoors, outdoors, in a garden or in a shopping centre - I sometimes manage to see clearly. And then I see colours, textures and light that are beautiful and fascinating. The photos I've taken in this state of mind seem much better than others that have been planned and thought about.
The book contains practice exercises. The writers advise learners initially not to use locations like parks, gardens or natural settings. The reason for this is because we have so many preconceptions about the beauty of these settings, that it's difficult to see simple forms without the barrier of thinking about their meaning, value or use.
The photos in this post are practice ones I've taken. They're not of the garden at all. And the book is about photography, not gardening. In spite of this, I'm hoping that this book review will still be seen as relevant for the Garden Book Reviews meme hosted by Holley in her blog, Roses and Other Gardening Joys. (Thanks for hosting, Holley). Because reading, re-reading and savouring this book can lead to more interesting and inspired garden photos.